New Pneumonia Vaccine Launches Today in Africa. Lives Will Be Saved
Maybe it's ironic, the day after health guru Jack LaLane dies of pneumonia, a new vaccine to prevent pneumonia is being rolled out across Africa:
The Gavi Alliance, a global health partnership of public and private sectors for immunisation, says 19 countries will get the jab at first. Kenyan children have begun receiving it and Sierra Leone, Yemen, Honduras and Guyana will follow this year.
In Yemen, the local paper, Yemen Observer announced that they are receiving the vaccine as part of an aid package from The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. Dr. Ghulam R. Popal, a World Health Organization representative in Yemen, commented:
Today is a milestone event in the history of the public health of Yemen. Yemen is one of the first countries in the region that, with the help of GAVI, introduced the pneumococcal vaccine.
Right now, Gavi is working with Save the Children in the UK, which simultaneously launched a worldwide report and campaign today called No Child Born to Die that will call attention to the potential funding shortfall for global immunization.
The BBC reports that
Save the Children says it will be campaigning for rich nations to increase support for global immunisation, and for the pharmaceutical industry to lower the price of vaccines. The pneumococcal vaccine costs £2.20 ($3.50) in Africa compared to £38 in Europe as a result of a deal between Gavi and two manufacturers: Pfizer and GSK. The roll-out in the developing world comes just a year after the same vaccine was introduced in the United States.
According to the the World Health Organization fact sheet, pneumonia is the single largest cause of death in children worldwide. Every year, it kills an estimated 1.6 million children under the age of five years, accounting for 18 percent of all deaths of children under five years old worldwide. It is most prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and can be easily prevented with low cost vaccines.
Gavi and Save the Children are convinced that a comprehensive roll-out of the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines could potentially prevent more than one million deaths annually. Needless to say, this is very good news.